The music talent show, The Voice, has churned out a few country artists in recent years. They’ve all came from Team Blake (Shelton) of course. I’ve reviewed two of his proteges from the show already, Gwen Sebastian, who I feel has potential, and RaeLynn, who doesn’t exactly impress me. Today I review another from Shelton’s team, Zach and Colton Swon, the duo known as The Swon Brothers. I remember watching these guys on the show too and I thought they sounded pretty good on the show at the time. Looking back now I still feel the same. They performed a lot of great traditional country songs, including a heartfelt tribute to George Jones just after he died. I thought their performance of “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” did justice to The Possum. So when they released their first single, “Later On,” I was pretty disappointed they went the pop country route because they proved on the show they could perform great country songs. Not only that, but they have likable personalities and seem like they’re genuinely nice people. So going into their first album on a major label (Arista Nashville) I wasn’t sure what I was going to get from The Swon Brothers.
The album starts off with “What I’m Thinking About,” a song about a man trying to hook up with a girl in the bar. Sigh. I swear every damn song from a mainstream male country artist today is about trying to have sex with a girl. This has a pop country sound and cliché lyrics. The same old shit, different day. Next is their minor hit single, “Later On.” Their biggest hit is a bro country song of course. It has all of the typical tropes you hear in bro country. It’s another song about trying to have sex with a girl. Nothing here you haven’t heard before. The vocals are decent at least. Two songs into the album and I’m beginning to wonder why I’m even listening to it.
“Chasing You Around” is thankfully a much better song. The song is about a woman who dumped a man, leaving the man wondering if the woman loved him or loved chasing him around. She dumped him out of nowhere and now he’s picking up the pieces. This is more of what I want to hear from this duo. It tells a story and conveys some emotion in the listeners. Their harmonies are good and it has a traditional country sound. Unfortunately the duo goes back to their bad side with “Songs That Said It All.” This song is a giant cliché. How many country songs have we heard like this in recent years? I’m tired of songs about songs. This isn’t necessarily bro country, but it’s certainly checklist country music. It’s also boring and completely forgettable.
The next song, “Pray For You,” is about a man who’s praying for a friend to get through a rough patch. It does a decent job of telling the story and painting the situation in the listener’s head. I felt the lyrics were just a little bland and again cliché sounding. The pop country sound did nothing for me either. “Breaking” is one of the four songs on this album that I would consider good. The song is about a man deeply in love with a woman, even when she’s breaking his heart. He can’t shake his love for her. The instrumentation is more stripped down in this song and allow the brothers’ harmonizing to shine. This is a good love song with emotion. Not bad at all.
The duo follows this up with two absolute duds. Of course these will probably be their next singles and skyrocket into the top ten in the charts. One song is called “95.” I knew before I even heard this song it was about a hot summer day and 95 would reference 95 degrees outside. Unfortunately I get no reward for being absolutely correct or listening to this boring, brotastic song. Vapid, shallow lyrics that degrade women litter it throughout. What a terrible song! “Pretty Beautiful” sounds more like a bad R&B song instead of a bad country song. The Swon Brothers go above their range in this song by a long shot. They should never go this high with their voices. If I wouldn’t have known better I would’ve thought it was another Usher song that everyone would have to ignore. I can’t take this song seriously. The brothers attempt being serious with “Colder” and they do okay. Sonically I’m puzzled as how to describe it. It kind of reminds me of Eric Church’s album. The theme of this song isn’t quite clear either. It’s a heartbreak song I guess. This song comes off weird to my ears and I actually have trouble finding words to describe it to you. That isn’t a good thing.
After these three songs, I’m not expecting much out of the last two songs. Sure enough the duo does a complete 180 and give me a complete surprise. After the bizarre sound of “Colder” they follow it up with a traditional country sound in “Same Old Highway.” The man in the song is used to going down the same old highway and seeing the same old faces, including the woman of his life. But she’s gotten tired of the same old stuff and has ditched him and the same old town. Finally a realistic look at small towns! The duo’s harmonies shine and this is easily one of the best songs on the album. Yet they top themselves again with the final song, “This Side of Heaven.” Out of nowhere this fantastic song blows me away. The song takes a realistic look at life and how much hell we can experience on “this side of heaven.” The lyrics in this song are heartfelt, sincere and real. Carrie Underwood comes in on the second half of the song and elevates it even more. This is one of the best songs I’ve heard from mainstream country music in 2014 and is a dark horse for Country Perspective’s Song of the Year.
It’s unbelievable how up and down this album goes. One minute I’m furious and ready to throw my computer out the window. The next minute I’m praising the duo for their strong harmonies and traditional country sound. It’s astounding. You can tell one part of the album is for commercial purposes and the other is music they truly want to make. In the commercial part they’re trying to be a Florida Georgia Line copycat. We already have one Florida Georgia Line and they’re destined to flame out eventually. If you’re reading this Swon Brothers, head my advice: go with your heart and make traditional country music. You’ll stand out a lot more this way and get more respect in the process. Don’t chase trends and just make good music. I think The Swon Brothers have the talent to make great country music and I hope they don’t use their talents instead for crappy commercial music. This album has some truly good songs and bad songs that make me cringe. My recommendation: check out the four good songs and avoid the rest of the album.